By Clarissa Goetz and Ramona Winkler

 

So, you’re in the lucky position to have end users lined up for research interviews. Great! Now, do you need to prepare for this interview at all? And if so, how? If you want to get the most out of the on-site visit, it’s best to prepare in advance. Running a pilot test or checking the dress code are just a few examples of things that are worthwhile looking into before you set off. Following the simple steps outlined in this post makes sure that your on-site end user engagements will be a success.


1. Set up a team

It’s hard for one person to run the interview AND capture what the user says and does. Go to the end users as a team of moderator and note taker(s) to capture all information. The roles should be clearly defined well ahead of the site visit:

  • One moderator who conducts the interview. This can be a user researcher or a skilled-up member of your development team.
  • One or two note takers who capture the information from and about the end user. These can be developers, the project lead or any other member of your team.

You can swap the note takers between customer site visits to get more of your development team to meet end users.


2. Skill up and prepare for your role

An interview can be a disconcerting situation for end users and an unskilled interview team can make it even worse. Therefore, familiarize yourself with your role and its responsibilities, so that you can act the best way to make the end user feel at ease while at the same time collecting the information and feedback you’re looking for. Here are some key responsibilities for the moderator and the note takers to keep in mind:

  • As the moderator, your job is to get relevant information about how the user works. Ask questions and let the user do the talking. As a rule of thumb, the moderator listens 90% of the time.
  • Note takers write down everything the user says and does, without skipping anything, judging or evaluating.

To practice your skills, run a pilot interview with a suitable user at your own company before going to the customer.


3. Prepare an interview guide

The interview guide contains a list of non-leading, open questions which cover your areas of interest. It helps to structure the interview and prevents you from forgetting important questions. It also ensures that you ask all users the same questions to get information that you can compare.

If you have not prepared interview questions, the interview situation can become awkward (e.g., the moderator forgets what he or she wants to ask), end users may become annoyed or nervous, and you may return with irrelevant information that you cannot use. Therefore, make sure well in advance to brainstorm together with your team the topics that you want to cover on-site and to create the interview guide.


4. What to bring along

Don’t forget to pack and take along everything you’ll need for the interview, such as several printed copies of the interview guide, paper and pens, gifts for the participants, and recording devices. Well prepared for the interview with everything that you need at hand, you can focus on what really matters – what the participant has to say.


5. Last checks with the customer before the interview

Even if you have settled with the customer on the interview details in earlier calls, it’s good to have a final call for double checking. This way you can, for example, insure to interview the right end user and to be dressed adequately.
Here are examples of what you can double-check:

  • What is the dress code?
  • Recording allowed?
  • Right end users identified?
  • Individual interview with the end-user possible?
  • Other open questions?


Summary

Alright. So, now we found out that it’s crucial to prepare well for an interview in order to get the feedback you’re looking for. Let’s summarize what you should keep in mind when preparing for an interview:

☐ Set up the interview team.
☐ Define who will be the moderator and the note taker(s).
☐ Skill up with suitable information or trainings.
☐ Create the interview guide.
☐ Run a pilot interview internally.
☐ Pack your bag with everything you need on-site.
☐ Have a last-minute check with the customer.

And one last thing:
Enjoy the process and the interaction with the end users.

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